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Superstitio And Roman Beliefs

Decent Essays
Citizens of ancient Rome and its many territories had a wide range of beliefs. The state religion centered on the Roman pantheon of gods, based heavily on the Greek pantheon and still recognizable to many today. Gods outside this pantheon were worshipped in its colonies, such as Egypt and Judea. Romans believed, to varying degrees, in magic, fortune-telling, spells, and curses. Among the intellectual class, personal philosophies became even more diverse as thinkers attempted to use reason to decide whether the gods were real, and if they truly interfered with the affairs of mankind. It could be difficult, even for Romans themselves, to define exactly what constituted religion and what did not. For beliefs and practices that they did not deem true religion, they came to use the word superstitio, which can be loosely translated as superstition. But what exactly was meant by the word superstitio, and the practices to which it was applied, changed dramatically over the centuries. At different points throughout Roman history, an accusation of superstitio could be completely innocuous-- or a death sentence. Superstitio is made up of the prefix super, meaning above, and the verb stare, which means to stand or be firm; literally translated, supersitio means a belief in something that is above what is clear or concrete. The english word that we derive from superstitio, superstition, can usually be defined as “irrational faith in supernatural powers”, but according to Dale B. Martin,
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